The other day I went to see Bill, a chiropractor highly recommended by my wife. I'm having a persistent problem with the fingers of my left hand (not great for a violin player) that he's helping me with. I want to tell you about my experience with one of his machines, because it has a lot of relevance to the experience of initiating change in the workplace.
In Bill's office, he explained how strange my therapy was going to feel. He said he would rely on me to complain when it became uncomfortable, and that I shouldn't try to endure anything. If it became uncomfortable, he wanted to know.
Then he hooked me up to electrodes and ultrasound. He began to work on my forearm, and strange it was! I don't think I've ever felt weirder sensations before. First my fingers felt funny, then tingling shot down my arm, and then my fist clenched and my hand was temporarily paralyzed. There was no pain, but I could imagine pain coming if Bill turned up the dial much more.
Whenever he stopped, all the strangeness disappeared, and it all went on for about twenty minutes. After the initial weird feelings, I kind of enjoyed it, and my arm and hands felt really great for the entire rest of the day. I'm not sure yet if it's helping but there are some encouraging signs, and I'll be going back for more.
Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I'm a very receptive person where body experiences are concerned. Most people aren't so adventurous, and I imagine that some of Bill's patients strongly dislike the unusual sensations that I enjoyed so much: tingling, loss of control of the limbs, temporary feelings of paralysis. They do sound kind of scary, don't they?
This chiropractic experience reminded me of experiences I've had helping people improve the way they work and the quality of their work. Some people welcome new work experiences, no matter how strange. Some resist the new experiences with varying degress of protest. And some run away screaming, interpreting the new experiences as harmful and dangerous.
If I hadn't trusted both Bill and myself, the feelings of tingling and paralysis in my violin hand would certainly have frightened me – possibly to the point of my stopping the treatment. That possibility illustrates the challenge that all healers face – working within the limits of each client's tolerance for the unfamiliar and uncomfortable. If you're in the change business, then you face it too, because positive change is a form of healing.
There is a limit to how far an individual can go along an unfamiliar path before they freak out. The art of positive change is to take them there – knowing their limit – in such a way that they will want to go a little further next time. It is the path, itself, that supplies most of the healing. And the healer's task is not just to recommend the path. It is also to help the client stay on it.
Try to remember this when you're out there influencing, changing, evaluating, and recommending. When you are frustrated by the pace that your customers can handle, remember it is their momentum that is important. Have faith, yourself, in the path they're on. If you can teach your customers how to notice (and seize upon) more of their opportunities to move the ball forward, you will be doing them a great service.